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‘The Ghost In You: A Reckless Book’ HC (review)

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips, Jacob Phillips
Published by Image Comics

 

When I see Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips team up it is an instant pick up for me.

Brubaker’s plotting and dialogue is typically sharp and economical. Every word either feeds the plot engine or gives us insight into a character. Phillips brings it all to life with verve and energy. Together they take the reader to a time and place by delving both into the psychology of their characters and filling in the details of their world.

The Reckless series has focused on Ethan Reckless, a private eye who has seen it all. Each book has dealt with compromised, seedy characters. Through it all Ethan’s slightly askew sense of morality and survival instincts has been our guide. With this newest chapter, The Ghost in You, a supporting character gets to be the starring character.

It’s 1989 and Ethan is away. Ethan’s assistant, Anna, answers a call. A retired actress and former TV host, for a show Anna grew up watching, needs help. A mansion that the host, Lorna Valentine, inherited may be haunted. The mansion, having a bloody history, may have its secrets to protect. With strange noises and now a missing pet, Lorna Valentine needs help.

Anna’s curiosity and confidence has her diving in, even without Ethan on hand to help. Her investigation has her reaching out to friends of her estranged mother. Before long, she reconnects and finds her mother is getting married. Her desire to protect her mother complicates her investigation into the mansion in unforeseen ways.

Having Anna be the lead opens the Reckless series to a fresh, less jaundiced point of view. It says a lot about the seedy world that Brubaker and Phillips have built that cynical Anna maybe the most honest character in L.A. Seeing a case unfold through Anna’s point of view is a refreshing turn for this series. The Reckless series has not been supernatural at this point, so seeing the mystery of the mansion, be laid out, set aside, then come back was deftly handled.

Like one of the previous Reckless books, Friend Of The Devil, the supernatural and spiritual is seen as either an opportunity to take advantage of others or something that drives the imagination. Ethan Reckless reappears at the end of the story. His appearance serves as a reminder. Only true friends like Ethan and Anna, side by side, are built to survive a place like this.

Brubaker has written characters with quirks and oddities yet they seem to have a full inner life. Pick any character in this series, and in The Ghost In You, and I would gladly read a book with their exploits. The Fortune Teller, Anna’s mother, the TV host. Characters worthy of their own story.

Jacob Phillips on color bring a dimension to this story. L.A. is dark and seedy, but full of character. Little things stand out, like Anna’s hair color, without being garish. It is easy to set a story in the 80’s and just put up a bunch of neon, but Jacob Phillips gratefully avoids the obvious.

Sean Phillips’ art plays hide and go seek expertly, showing the reader exactly what you need to keep you invested in the story. He also provides loving detail to every character. Something like Lorna Valentine’s wrinkles, detailed with affection and not garishly.

The Reckless series of books are just one hit after another. If you are a fan of the Brubaker and Phillips collaboration, The Ghost In You keeps the streak going.

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